GALLIPOLIS — In recognition of Women’s History Month, Bossard Library Executive Director Debbie Saunders and Adult Programming Associate Lynn Pauley are excited about this weekend’s glimpse into women’s struggles and victories in the 1800s era, as Debra Conner portrays Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, the only female recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
To learn more about the life of Dr. Walker, Saunders and Pauley liked the effectiveness of the Chautauqua model, which features actors in full costume and character. In fact, Conner is no stranger to this style.
“We are pleased to welcome Debra Conner back to Gallia County for the portrayal of Dr. Walker,” said Pauley. “Area residents may remember Debra for her portrayal of Margaret Blennerhasset during the 2012 Ohio Chautauqua series.”
This time, however, she will share the persona of a high spirited, female surgeon practicing in a time when women traditionally did not hold such careers. Bossard Library will present “An Afternoon with Dr. Mary Edwards Walker” at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 17 at the library.
Dr. Walker was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for to her service during the Civil War. Born in 1832, in the state of New York, Dr. Walker received a common school education before completing two medical degrees. After teaching in New York, she began a medical practice in Ohio, in the city of Columbus. In 1861, she became a volunteer assistant to the Union Army surgeon at the Patent Office Hospital in Washington, D.C. before being assigned to a tent hospital near Fredericksburg in 1862.
Her service was not without controversy, as those to whom her services were offered were outraged. As Walker’s biography notes, “the director of the medical staff considered the idea of a female surgeon a ‘medical monstrosity’ and called for a review by an army medical board of Walker’s qualifications.” Despite their initial resistance, the men developed a strong personal attachment to the strong-willed Dr. Walker.
In addition to her work in the medical profession, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker was an active supporter of suffrage and broader divorce rights for women. Dr. Walker even challenged the impractical and unhealthy nature of women’s dress. These facts about her life do not even begin to complete the story of this high-spirited doctor.
“It is our hope that community members will join us this Sunday to learn more about the life of this extraordinary woman in American History,” said Saunders. “As we have noted in the past, our most recent library patron survey indicated a demand for more adult programming in our community, therefore, we are offering this interesting program in response our patrons’ needs.”
Readers may wish to visit the website of Debra Conner at http://www.debraconner.com/ to gain more information about Debra prior to Sunday’s event at the library.